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450 S Michigan Ave, AUD 1851
Chicago IL 60605
United States


Illinois Labor History Society

Biographies: C-E

Biographies: C-E

Voltairine de Cleyre

(1866-1912) Grave 11, Sector A

Named by her father after the French philosopher, Voltaire de Cleyre spent 4 childhood years in a convent. True to her namesake, she rebelled against convent life and moved to Philadelphia and later Baltimore, where she taught English to immigrant workers. Before the Haymarket Trial, she had believed in the essential justice of American law, but "after this [the trial] I never could," she said. She became outspoken opponent of police censorship and repression, later became a good friend of Emma Goldman.

Goldman called her the "most gifted and brilliant anarchist woman America ever produced." De Cleyre's ideas live on in her many essays and poems, several collections of which are currently in print.

Books include, The First Mayday: The Haymarket Speeches, 1895-1910, Exquisite Rebel: The Essays of Voltairine de Cleyre--Anarchist, Feminist, Genius and Gates of Freedom: Voltairine de Cleyre and the Revolution of the Mind.

Eugene Dennis

(1905-1961) Grave 12, Sector B

Eugene Dennis grew up in Seattle. After attending college for a while, he went to sea as a sailor. He became radicalized by his experience and soon became a member of the YCL and the CPUSA. He was a major organizer of the historic nation-wide demonstrations against unemployment on March 6, 1930. Between 1930 and 1934 he and his wife, Peggy did political organizing in Germany, France, England, South Africa, the Philippines, the Soviet Union, and China.

Upon his return to the U.S., Dennis became state secretary of the Communist Party of Wisconsin. Dennis was jailed in 1950 under the Smith Act and served until his release in 1955. In 1959 he suffered a stroke and upon his recovery became the CPUSA's chair. One year later he was diagnosed with incurable cancer. During this period he wrote Ideas They Cannot Jail, one of his several books. His life was subject of a PBS documentary, narrated by his son.

Peggy Dennis

(1909-1993) Grave 12, Sector B [ashes interred]

Peggy Dennis was born in 1909 into a Jewish socialist family in Los Angeles.  She joined the YCL and CPUSA when she was 16. Peggy attended a West Coast YCL School in the state of Washington where she met Eugene Dennis, a teacher. By 1928 they became life-long partners though they never formally married. Peggy became pregnant with their first child (Tim) just before Gene went underground to N.Y. and then the Soviet Union in 1931.

They both undertook assignments for the Communist International. Peggy worked in Europe with underground Communist Parties, including in Nazi Germany, bringing them outside assistance. Peggy and Gene returned to the U.S. in 1935, leaving Tim behind, not wanting to call attention to their underground work for the Communist International. They did not see Tim personally until 1960 when he came to the U.S. as an economist with Khrushchev's first UN delegation. When they returned to the U.S. Gene became the chairman of the Wisconsin District of the Communist Party and Peggy the Educational Director. Subsequently, Peggy became a writer for the Daily Worker and its successors. Gene, Jr., was born in 1941. Despite harassment by the FBI, Peggy worked on the defense for Smith Act victims, and on raising money for their families. Later, and after Gene's death in 1961, Peggy continued writing occasional articles for the press. In 1977 she published an autobiography and shortly afterward dropped out of the Party.  Her book is, The Autobiography of an American Communist:  A Personal View of a Political Life: 1925-1975.

Josef Dietzgen

(1828-1888) Grave 13, Sector A

Socialist theorist Josef Dietzgen was born in Germany and first came to the U.S. following the defeat of the 1848 revolution in his homeland. A leather worker by trade, Dietzgen lacked a formal education. In Europe in 1872, Karl Marx introduced him to the Hague Congress of the International Working Men's Association with words, "Here is our philosopher." In 1886, when Chicago anarchist daily Arbeiter-Zeitung editor August Spies was jailed as one of the Haymarket defendants, Dietzgen volunteered to edit the paper in his stead.

It was reported that his philosophical writings were so revered in the homes of miners in South Wales in the 1920's that they were regarded as the Bible. Welsh miners regarded him as the greatest philosopher that ever lived. Two volumes of his writing were published in English translation by Charles H. Kerr Publishing Company, The Positive Outcome of Philosophy and Philosophical Essays.

Ester Dolgoff

(1905-1989) [ashes scattered]

A friend of Emma Goldman, Rudolf Rocker, Augustin Souchy and other noted anarchists, Esther Dolgoff was active in the anarchist movement starting in her teens. Together with her husband Sam, she was also active in the Industrial Workers of the World. A contributor to many movement publications, and co-editor of the New York anarchist journal Views and Comments she translated important anarchist works into English, most notably Joseph Cohen's history of the Jewish anarchist movement.

Raya Dunayevskaya

(1910-1987) Grave 14, Sector F

Russian-born Raya Dunayevskaya, one-time secretary to Leon Trotsky, was among the first to call attention to Marx's early writing and prefigured the 1960's revival of the interest in Hegel. In the monthly News & Letter and other publication she developed the theory of state-capitalism and the philosophy of Marxist-Humanism, focusing, on the "new beginnings" for social transformation indicated by the wildcat strike, the Black revolt and the women's movement.

In later years, Raya emphasized the contemporary relevance of Marx's overlooked Ethnological Notebook's of 1880-82. Her books, translated into many languages, included Marxism and Freedom and Rosa Luxemburg, Women's Liberation and Marx's Philosophy of Revolution.

John F. Dwyer

(1912-1989) Grave 14, Sector F

Active in the Socialist Party and later the Socialist Worker's Party, John Dwyer also played an important role in the early Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). Shortly after WWII he elaborated a theory of state-capitalism. For some 40 years he was the comrade and companion of Raya Dunayevskaya.

George Engel, Haymarket Martyr

(1836-1887) Grave 15, Sector A

Oldest of the Haymarket Eight, George Engel came to America from Germany in 1866. He worked in Philadelphia as a painter and later worked in a sugar refinery. When he came to Chicago in 1874 he worked at a wagon factory and became active in the labor movement. He opened a toy store in 1876 and became more involved in the Eight Hour Day movement. He was active in the extreme left of the anarchist movement in Chicago. Engel was not present at the Haymarket meeting—his only connection to the event was his attendance at 2 labor meetings several days before. He was hanged on November 11, 1887.

Helena Engel (1835-1904), the widow of George Engel, is buried at Forest Home cemetery in section H, 6 with a family whose last name is Rust. The couple had 2 children.